Cornwall business start-ups booming
The number of new company start-ups have risen in Cornwall but fallen in Devon, sparking concerns that the Duchy's £500 million European funding is creating a two-tier business support landscape.
The number of companies being registered in Cornwall stood at 509 in the third quarter of 2012, compared to 501 in the same period in 2011. Devon saw a 4.5% drop in the number of new companies being set up in the same period in 2011, with 1,080 firms set up, compared to 1,131 the previous year.
Dr Steven Brand, associate professor of economics at Plymouth University, said: "My gut feeling is that it (Convergence) does make a difference. Cornwall has its own Local Enterprise Partnership and feels much more able to manage its own affairs. It does have the additional bonus of the extra funding.
"These things have contributed to an improvement in Cornwall's position – but you have to recognise that it is coming from a long way behind."
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Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said that he believed that the Convergence funding was allowing Cornwall to offer more support to small businesses.
"I don't think we need to worry too much about it. The issue is growing the peninsula's economy – a successful Cornwall has enormous benefits for Devon," he added.
The figures, from the latest Duport Business Confidence Report, show mixed results across Devon, with Exeter and Plymouth having the same number of start ups in the three month period – at 232 – but with vastly different trends.
Exeter, which is part way through a £1 billion investment programme in projects to the east of the city, experienced a 24.7% increase in the number of new firms.
But Plymouth, which has lost its airport during the recession as well as a number of public sector jobs, saw a 15.3% drop in the number of new businesses.
"Plymouth has seen itself increasingly overlooked from a transport and infrastructure perspective. Exeter does have a natural advantage (in being closer to London) but there doesn't seem to be much coming Plymouth's way," said Dr Brand.
Truro saw a 1.6% increase in the number of new companies while Taunton saw a 4.5% drop. The UK average rate of start up companies for the third quarter, according to Duport, is a 3.8% increase.
Jess Ratty and Ben Ford have recently launched their St Stephen-based camper van rental business The Cornwall Camper Company.
Jess praised the business support available in Cornwall, including the Ignite business plan competition and Grow Cornwall – both European Convergence funded initiatives – as well as the Cornish business community.
"If you've got the ability to go out there and find the support there are loads of people that are willing to support new businesses."
But banks had not been helpful when the couple were trying to get the business off the ground, she said.
"We found in November, with a long winter to get through, that they were not prepared to help at all with a loan until the end of February. Without the support of the people around us we would have gone bankrupt before we launched the business."
The Duport figures are based on the number of new companies registered at Companies House so do not take into effect new sole traders.